ABELLANA, Godofredo

Godofredo Abellana, called Dodong by his family and friends, graduated valedictorian of his class in elementary and high school. He always stood out in school and interschool competitions. He once won an oratorical contest. In college, he majored in math, with English as his minor course. So exceptional was Godofredo as an undergraduate, the dean allowed him to hold lectures to his fellow students.

His father was from Cebu, a veteran who fought the Japanese in the 1940s. He found a job at the San Pedro Cathedral office in Davao City. Fluent in several languages, part of his work involved interviewing foreigners planning to get married. Godofredo’s mother looked after the household full of 11 children. Dodong, being the eldest, started work early. He got a job at the Sta. Ana Church office doing desk work and organizing weddings. He also helped his mother look after the large brood, even making sure they were tucked in safe and clean every night. He checked their school work and even tutored them. “He was not satisfied until we knew our lessons,” recalls his sister. He even checked their singing, to make sure they did it correctly, she says.

A little family story is told of Godofredo using a borrowed projector and showing American silent movies, winning bursts of laughter from the crowd with his Bisayan dubbing. A friend remembers him as emcee during an election campaign rally in Davao City in the 1960s: “He never ran out of words.”

Political awakening

When the First Quarter Storm (FQS) broke in Metro Manila in 1970, student activists in Davao joined in.They called for a more affordable education and for better facilities in schools. They also supported the call for a non-partisan constitutional convention. Recruitment for groups such as the Kabataang Makabayan and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan started in Davao.

Godofredo was a college senior in the year 1970, with a very promising future, when he got interested in these events that rocked the country’s political life from 1970 to 1972. He joined the Kabataang Makabayan, became an activist, and went into organizing other young people for the youth movement that was soon calling for government reforms and denouncing the country’s pro-American foreign policy. Godofredo joined many rallies held in Davao City. He spoke before big crowds, winning him many admirers.

In August 1971 Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus and cracked down on activists. At that time, Dodong was taking daily trips to Davao del Norte because he had also started to organize there, doing political work among farmers. When Marcos declared martial law in September 1972, arrested people by the thousands and banned student organizations such as the KM, Dodong packed his things and moved his base to Davao del Norte.

“Mama, Papa, huwag na niyo akong hanapin,” he told his parents. “Delikado kung itutuloy ko pa ang pag-aaral ko, kasi pinaghahanap na kaming mga KM.” His parents never thought the conversation, although dire in itself, to be their last one with their son. The family accepted Dodong’s absence and prayed for his safety.

Godofredo first went to the rural areas in Davao del Norte where he had worked for months. Many activists evading arrest had also sought sanctuary in those places. He did more political work there. After a few months, he moved to Misamis Oriental up north, home to the Higaonons and to Visayan settlers, to help beef up the resistance movement in the area. A good speaker, he got people listening to him and his comrades talk about the repressive government policies that affected them.

Circumstances of death

He was reportedly killed in a raid by constabulary soldiers in a remote barangay in Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental sometime in 1975, as he and his fellow activists were doing political work.

Some of Godofredo’s siblings, convinced about their brother’s principles, joined the movement to fight the Marcos dictatorship. The Abellana family’s home in Davao City became a target of military raids in the 1970s and early 1980s. His brother, Nelson Abellana got arrested and was severely tortured, while his brother Noel was killed by the military in 1986. But another brother, Marlon, who was not in anyway active in the movement was not spared from military arrest and abuses forcing him to leave Davao City in the early 80s.

The family only learned of his death very recently. But all through the years after he left, they light a candle on his birthday.